According to a survey of The MA’s readers, more than a quarter (28%) of operators were unable to trade for more than 12 weeks in the year since Boris Johnson told pubs to close for the first time on 20 March 2020 amid the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This comes off the back of a year during which publicans have largely been unable to welcome customers in person amid three national lockdowns, regional coronavirus restrictions and measures including curfews and barriers on serving alcohol unless it accompanies a “substantial meal”.
After closing pubs indefinitely on 20 March, operators were allowed to reopen from 4 July subject to a number of social distancing measures – before Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak introduced the Government-backed Eat Out to Help Out scheme to drive sales during August.
However, following increased infection rates and the introduction of regional restrictions throughout the Autumn, England entered a second national lockdown in November from which a large number of pubs are yet to reopen due to the reintroduction of regional tiers throughout December and a third national lockdown in January.
Of the operators quizzed, 3.5% were able to open their pub for between one and four weeks over the past year while just over 5% were able to trade for between four and eight weeks.
Additionally, almost 18% of respondents benefitted from between eight and 12-weeks’ worth of pandemic trade.
The majority of pub operators told The MA that they had been able to open for more than three months since the Prime Minister first called time in pubs just days before the imposition of the first raft of lockdown measures.
Almost 27% of survey participants were able to open their doors for between 12 and 16 weeks, while 28.5% welcomed socially distanced drinkers for between 16 and 20 weeks since 20 March 2020.
On top of this, more than half of operators quizzed by The MA claimed that their takings during the pandemic fell by more than 75% year-on-year.
Around one-in-five (21%) of those quizzed revealed that revenue had fallen to less than 10% of the previous year’s figure, while more than a third (36%) revealed that year-on-year takings were between 11% and 25% of the previous year.
Additionally, 30% of respondents stated that revenues during the Covid-19 pandemic were between 26% and 50% of those recorded during the year prior.
According to recent figures by the British Beer and Pub Association, pubs have missed out on the sale of 2.1bn pints due to a full year of either forced closure or trading under severe restrictions – totalling in the region of £8.2bn.
At the hospitality sector’s “lowest ebb” in December, sector sales were down by 84% year-on-year according to Kate Nicholls.
However, operators such as Loungers and the Oakman Group revealed that the Government-backed Eat Out to Help Out scheme in August yielded like-for-like sales growth – with the latter recording its highest ever sales quarter as a result.
What’s more, when asked to rate their pub’s chances of returning to 2019 trading levels during the next 12 months, a third (32%) described their outlook as “bad” – compared to 29.5% opting for “ok”, one-in-five (20%) “good” and just one-in-ten (11%) “very good”.
Should the Government’s lockdown roadmap proceed as planned, there will have been a total of 458 days between Boris Johnson first calling upon pubs to close on 20 March 2020 and the proposed end-date of legal Covid-19 restrictions on 21 June 2021.